Wadjet, The Serpent Goddess
by Catherine C. Harris
When I started looking for information on Wadjet, I ran into the fact that she is not a well-known goddess, and while I could find some information on her, much of it was a repetitive. Digging deeper, I found some fascinating facts and quite a few contradictions.
Some of the problem in finding information about Wadjet lies in the fact that, while she is one goddess, she has many names. Wadjet, Edjo, Udjo, and Buto are only a few of the names by which she was known. The spelling of her name seems to depend upon who was presenting the information about her and which area of Egypt the exploration was taking place.
Most popular information about Wadjet lists her primarily as a snake-headed protector of Lower Egypt, the delta region. However, the ancient people of northern area worshiped Wadjet as a vulture Goddess. Wadjet was revered as the goddess of childbirth, and protector of children, and in later years she became the protector of kings. Wadjets role was often seen as a forceful defender, while her sister, Nekhebet, was seen as the motherly defender. This contrast provided the counterpoint seen in many of the Egyptian deities. The symbol of justice, time, heaven and hell, Wadjet is one of the oldest Egyptian goddesses.
Often shown as a cobra, or as the head of the cobra, Wadjet can be seen rearing from the forehead of the rulers. Evidence of her protection is most notable upon the funerary mask of Tutankhamen. Occasionally, she has been shown in the guise of her “eye of divine vengeance” role, as a lioness. In later years, the royal crowns were often decorated with two or more depictions of cobras in deference to her role as protector.
While Wadjet was sometimes depicted as the lioness-headed goddess, she was often seen in the image of a mongoose, represented on the funeral urns of ancient Egypt. The mongoose was revered as her sacred animal. Along with the shrew mouse, they were mummified and entombed in statuettes of the goddess. It is believed that the mongoose, and the shrew mouse were representative of the day and night cycle. The mongoose representing daylight, and the nocturnal shrew mouse representing night.
Many Egyptian deities were associated with specific hours, days, and months, and Wadjet was no different. Her time was considered to be the fifth hour of the fifth day of the month, or lunar cycle. Interestingly enough, December 25th, on the Egyptian calendar, was considered to be the “going forth of the Goddess, while April 21st was her feast day. The many days when Wadjet is honored culminate during her month, Epipi, the harvest or summer month. This corresponds to mid-May through mid-June on the Gregorian calendar.
Legend has it that Wadjet was the daughter of Atum, the first god of the Universe. He created her as his eye. Her purpose was to search the Universe for his lost sons, Tefnut and Shu. Wadjet did find his sons, and Atum was so happy to see them that he cried. It is said that those tears made humans. As a reward, Atum placed Wadjet upon his head in the form of a cobra. There she would be feared and respected by all the gods and men.
In the modern world, Wadjet has once again surfaced as the goddess of an intriguing game that allows the players to explore ancient Egypt. The game is introduced, Your destination is the Valley of the Kings where you will experience a world of burning desert heat and blinding sandstorms. You will know the intrigue, the secrets, and the dangers that lie in every step through the dark corridors of the ancient tombs, as you search for the stolen treasures of the Pharaoh. But beware, the cobra goddess Wadjet has guarded the royal kings and their treasures for over 3000 years. She awaits your intrusion. This interpretation of the goddess holds true to the images we see of her throughout ancient history.
A fascinating goddess, Wadjet’s many roles and depictions make learning about her a delightful treasure hunt. Sorting through the many names, and images, could take a life time of study to fully understand the role she played in ancient Egyptian religious life.